Fuso FM260-Based Expedition Vehicle

JRhetts

Adventurer
I have not posted for quite a while - busy outdoors. But after Covid has reduced my range, I thought I'd post the results of my last 10 years work.

By mid-2009, I had developed a serious itch to drive around the world, thinking to take several years, including spending time in various countries as they appealed/intrigued me and my wife. She being a physician and surgeon, we had ideas about doing serial volunteer medicine all along the way.
Changes in global politics, plus a divorce, conspired to close the chapter on driving around the world - I did not aspire to do it solo. I remain convinced that this vehicle can circumnavigate as well as any other I have seen or heard about.

A chance encounter with another adventurer in very remote NW Montana connected me to the late Darrin Fink, who specialized in building expedition vehicles primarily on Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi Fuso trucks. From Darrin I acquired:
  • a new Fuso FM260 truck
  • with a Transonite box [built by Martin-Marietta]
  • connected to the frame with a three-point torsion mount.
Both the mount, and the addition of four-wheel drive by Marmon-Harrington with Dana Corp. axels were fully approved by Mitsubishi engineers, totally protecting the truck's 7-year, 250,000 mile warranty on the engine, powertrain, and frame. In my calculus were: Fuso being 50% owned by Mercedes-Benz would give me world-wide access to maintenance and repair as necessary, and Mitsubishi Truck's excellent reputation and extremely long warranty increased my confidence. The Fuso FM-260 as built had very straightforward, minimally-complicated systems, with no low-sulphur requirements whatsoever: meaning I could purchase fuel from barrels in the back of a pickup truck as long as the water content was low enough and the 'chunks' were small enough. I also knew from my decades of overland travel that I could and would design the house with straightforward and reliable systems.
1a Finished Front.jpg

2a Finished Rear IMG_0070.jpg

Long story short, I built out the truck and the box to give me an extremely comfortable, capable and reliable expedition rig.
3a Finished Side-SaddleMtn.jpg

Today, with 53,000 miles on the odo [roughly 40-50% off pavement, and maybe 10-15% truly off-road], I have reached an age when I no longer hunger for remote, expeditionary travel. I have put very little milage on the vehicle since 2014. It's time to get this VERY CAPABLE tool into the hands of someone(s) who does have that hunger.

I began this project with:
  • decades of personal experience as an overland traveler, a pilot, a sailor, and a backpacker;
  • experience the previous 5 years driving and living in two full-size "expedition vehicles" built by others;
  • hundreds of hours pouring over websites of major, European, bespoke vehicle builders [e.g., UNICAT and Action Mobil],
  • the skill and experience of a team of (4) craftsmen who had each spent dozens of years building RVs for some major US manufacturers – truly professional RV builders.

I began with an empty box,
4 emp box fwd IMG_0899-edit.jpg 5 emp box.rear-edit.jpg

I spelled out my major design criteria for the house and its systems [all were important]:
  • open, easy access to all plumbing, electrical, and mechanical points;
  • open, light atmosphere/lighting inside;
  • flexible storage everywhere - with organization, organization, organization;
  • all water storage freeze protected - others have big problems with this
  • good flexible lighting with low energy consumption - use it whenever you want to
  • comfortable seating - to read, talk/visit, rest my crampy back
  • no 'blackwater' - gray is fine and necessary
  • queen size bed - comfortable for two tall adults
  • bed permanently made up - no daily making or stowing the bed
  • stable interior temperature in winter - no big hot-cold cycles
  • separation between head and galley/eating area [some don't, and I find that nasty]

Thanks to the time I spent viewing dozens of professionally-engineered floor plans from the European expedition vehicle manufacturers [and with their permission], I had formed some pretty concrete ideas about how I would implement my criteria in an 8' x 17' house. The experience of my build team led to suggestions throughout the build that there was 'another way' to accomplish the goals I drew in the plans; they had seen lots of engineering mistakes in their decades of building. Together, this made the final vehicle virtually error-free.

So my basic floor plan quickly came into focus:
6a Floor Plan.jpg

The main electrical panel, installed at eye-level, offers a concrete example of the access coupled with professional attention to detail the build team and I achieved throughout:
7 Elect Panel_unnumb.jpg 8 Elect Panel open crop.JPG

We built from January to the end of May, 2010. At that point my wife and I moved into the new rig full time, for the next 9 months, including high country winter in Oregon and California. We spent a week at –11°F snowshoeing; the house was an even 72°, a very welcome respite from the outdoors - as beautiful as it was.
 

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JRhetts

Adventurer
The color of the cabinetry, width of the center aisle, multiple-LED-lighting options, and truly ample storage for everything we needed, made it easy to live full time for a 9- and a 4 month stretch. The many other trips tended to be for a couple of months or less.
9 pano pass v5.jpg

10 pano Rear v5 crop.jpg

11 pano driv Side v5.jpg

The rig carried me flawlessly: extensively all over the SW USA; up into the remotest parts of the Yukon and NorthWest Territories for 3 months of solo travel; and on highway trips around much of the US. The picture below is at the end of the barely-navigable part of the western end of the "North Canol Road" in the Yukon & Northwest Territories.

12 No Canol Rd July 2012.jpg
The above photo was taken on July 8. I awoke the next morning to 18" of new snow. Driving ±150 miles back to Ross River presented no problem, though certainly no one else was driving in on the one-track trail.

Below felt like the top of the world: on top of Keno Hill in the Yukon, amid old gold mining claims. It was motorcycle from here on!
13 Keno Hill2-dehaze.jpg
And, by design, it took less than 2 minutes to fully deploy the motorcycle:
Remove the cover
14 m-c rack in up.jpg
Lower the bike with the winch
15 m-c rack on-down.jpg
And drive it away
16 m-c rack empty down.jpg
 

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JRhetts

Adventurer
Below, my grandson and I are "reading in the library" in Death Valley. Yes, we really did that – often; we are NOT 'photoshopped' into this picture. He has always been a voracious reader. At other times, I have watched wildlife from up here, and photographed some very curious bears sniffing me out.
17 Read'n in LibraryIMG_0737-b-edit.jpg
A big storage compartment is accessible through the open hatch in the above picture; it is the rear-most 2' of the vehicle, 8' across, totaling 32 cuft. It sits underneath the bed and is reachable through large exterior doors on both sides.

Along with a pair of full-sized shovels strapped to the ceiling, (12) custom-fit containers organize this 2'x2'x8' of storage. The use of tall bins allows segregation/organization of "stuff" by type, without loose piles that get jumbled after road shaking and tend to develop into and fall out as unhelpful tangles of mixed-together "stuff".

I have routinely carried not only parts, fluids and fan belts, but spare pumps, electric winch … and more. The most I have actually needed so far is a couple of nuts and bolts. There is room for all this – and the security it offers – along with all the toys I have wanted to play with on the road.
The space:
18 across storage open IMG_0780.jpg

19 driv bin full IMG_0792-.jpg

The containers:
20 12-containers.jpg

Rated Capacity vs Actual Full Load

A final detail I want to explain is: this rig, even fully loaded in no way approaches the safe-weight rating or stopping capacity of the overall vehicle. I previously owned an 'expedition vehicle' which was GVWR to 19,500#, but the brakes developed extreme fading on hot days at over 15-16,000#. This combination produced some very scary long descents down mountain roads, even using the tranny for speed control!

By contrast, this vehicle offers a substantial cushion re: all of its ratings, especially braking capacity. The exhaust brake in addition to the discs really manages any load with total safety and confidence. The Allison transmission is designed to work at this percentage of its rated capacity.
21 Operat % Rating.png

With 245 HP, I can easily cruise on interstate highways at the posted limits. On really steep hills I am not able to keep up such speeds: getting me to my destination at the end of the day perhaps a very few minutes later.

With 516 ft.lbs of torque, low-range transfer case [incl. 4x4 and locking rear differential], I have not come close to getting stopped by deep mud, deep snow, or very loose sand. I have been able and confident to go everywhere I have wanted to go, hundreds of times onto completely unknown surfaces.

And for those who really like statistics and specifications, I offer you as complete a list as I could think of:
22 Specs A.png
23 Specs B.png
24 Specs C.png

I have had an amazing time in this vehicle.
I was so lucky to have been able to obtain/enlist the engineering and professional builders – from the truck, through the 'box', to the final house – to get this done.
The entire build team produced a vehicle in which I have been able to travel in safety with my family to otherwise inaccessible places.
 
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mog

Kodiak Wrangler
John was nice enough to give me a full day 'tour' of his truck a few years ago when I was looking for ideas for my Fuso FG (a baby, compared to his truck). His is an amazing truck. Darrin at RUF did First-Class work and then John improved on the layout and systems, so Apex-Class now. Not only is everything well-executed but all the systems are well documented with schematics and operations manuals. If John had done the system planning and manuals for Chernobyl, there never would have been a meltdown! I was able to drive his truck and besides a very roomy cab, it is quiet and rides very nicely. I might add that his truck has a huge dedicated hangar (it is much too impressive to be called a garage) so out of the elements, except when it has been on adventures.
 

fisher205

Explorer
John,
I was thinking of you, your rig and the other FM Darrin built, the other day and wondering what had happened to them. This follow up is great. I still love seeing these rigs. Thank you and take care.
 

MNmtb

Member
It's time to get this VERY CAPABLE tool into the hands of someone(s) who does have that hunger.

Should we read this as the vehicle is looking for a new caretaker? Reading your post leads me to believe it has a soul and needs more than an owner.
 

Imurphy

New member
I have to say that is a nice layout and one I had not even thought about in my quest to build a vehicle. Usually, you see these with an E/W arrangement and not a N/S layout. You have shown that this provides for more counter and drawer storage space. While the N/S does not give you as much auxiliary sleeping area, it's a darn good idea. Now I need to go through and redraw some of my test layouts.
 

RAM5500 CAMPERTHING

OG Portal Member #183
The folks that linger on here whose passion is searching ads to simply call out missing details are going to be stumped with this one!

Bravo!! Beautifully done!
 
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